Ajami director: I don't represent Israel

Scandar Copti, Arab half of duo behind Oscar nominee: I'm not the national team.

ajami directors 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
ajami directors 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Scandar Copti, the Arab-Israeli who co-directed Oscar nominee Ajami withJewish-Israeli Yaron Shani, said Sunday, hours before the Academy Awardceremony in Hollywood, that the film does not represent Israel because“I cannot represent a country that does not represent me.”
Speakingto Channel 2, Copti said, “I am not the Israeli national team and I donot represent Israel,” adding that the representation issue is a“technical thing, that’s how it works in the Oscars. It says ‘Israel’because the funding comes from Israel. There’s a Palestinian director,an Israeli director, Palestinian actors and Israeli actors. The filmtechnically represents Israel, but I don’t represent Israel.”
Copti’s co-director, Shani, did not agree.
“It’san Israeli film, it represents Israel, it speaks ‘Israeli’ and dealswith Israel-related problems. The question of representation deals withmatters of perspective and political issues we need to resolve,” Shani,who was interviewed alongside Copti, said.
Copti and Shani were interviewed only a day after a demonstration took place in Jaffa, Ajami’s setting. Demonstrators took to the streets in protest of what they call police violence against the town’s residents.
Tonyand Jiras Copti, brothers of the director, were arrested in Jaffa inFebruary. After the arrest, they claimed police used excessive forceagainst them.
Ajami isthe third Israeli movie in three years to compete in the foreign filmcategory of the Academy Awards. It’s the ninth Israeli film ever to benominated. On Sunday night, Ajami competes with films from Germany, Peru, France and Argentina.
Angry reactions from top Israeli officials weren’t late in coming.
Sports and Culture Minister Limor Livnat said, “It is because of Israelifunding, which Copti now tries to renounce, that the film Ajami was producedand is now nominated for an Oscar.”
“Without state support, Copti would not be walking the red carpettonight. In the name of artistic license and pluralism, the movie wasgiven a budget of more than NIS 2 million. It is sad that a directorsupported by the state ignores those who helped him create and expresshimself. Happily, the rest of the movie’s team see themselves as partof the State of Israel and are proud to represent it in the Oscars asambassadors of liberated cultural expression,” Livnat added.
Habayit Hayehudi chairman MK Daniel Herschkowitz earlier called onLivnat to examine how “the man who directed the film with Israelifunding might wrap himself with a Hamas flag tonight. If the movie winsan Oscar, it might be a Pyrrhic victory for Israel.”
Other MKs were more angry still.
A furious National Union MK Michael Ben Ari suggested that Israelchange the Cinema Law, which serves as the guidebook to fund Israelifilms.
“Support for a film should not be granted unless theeditors, producers, directors and actors sign a declaration of loyaltyto the State of Israel, its symbols and its Jewish-democratic values,”he said.